Kickstart Storium and Tell Cool Social Stories Today

Robert Wiesehan 06-05-2014

If you’ve ever played a tabletop RPG campaign in a game like Dungeons & Dragons or Pathfinder, you know that finding the time to play all of those hours can be tough. Even if you use digital tools to play RPGs Play Paper and Pencil D&D Online With Distant Friends With Free Apps Want to slay dragons old-school D&D style using cutting-edge technology? You and your distant friends can do that using video and audio chat, with the applications we are covering today. After Wizards of the Coast... Read More without driving to somebody’s house, there’s still the struggle of scheduling several continuous hours around jobs, homework, childcare, and errands. As your life gets busier, it’s natural to decide that collaborative storytelling just has to become a thing of the past.

But what if you could somehow get a compelling storytelling experience asynchronously, so that all of those schedules didn’t matter?

Kickstarter project Storium aims to do exactly that. It’s a fusion of tabletop RPG game mechanics, play-by-post forum gaming, and prompted creative writing that helps you tell great stories with friends or strangers.

The Basics

At the core of Storium is a set of virtual cards. These cards can be user defined, or a set can be selected from a variety of popular genres, like fantasy or sci-fi. The narrator can even modify an existing set to get it closer to their tastes if they prefer. These cards consist of places, characters, and obstacles for the narrator to use, and traits, assets, and motivations for the other players to each define their single character. You can customize each card with an image of your choice, so keep track of great image resources. Here’s some beautiful fantasy landscape art 10 Breathtakingly Beautiful Fantasy Landscapes Does your imagination sometimes roam free, and suddenly you're in a majestic kingdom high up in the clouds? Perhaps you find yourself in a lovely mountainside with flower petals streaming through the air? Anything's possible... Read More to get you started.

Once all of the other players have selected defining traits for their characters, the narrator begins play by setting a scene with a place and any readily apparent opposition. Take the urban fantasy scene below for example. The Sully’s Pub card and its image give the players a clear image of where the action takes place, and the Living Cinders card represents the cigarette embers in the text that a magic spell is sweeping into a dangerous fire. Notice the set of six boxes in the upper corner of the obstacle card. That means the players will need to play six cards throughout the scene to determine who gains the right to say how the obstacle resolves.

At that point, the players write what their characters do in the pub, and play cards alongside their posts to focus the narrative. Among players’ cards are Strength and Weakness cards. If more of one type is played on an obstacle than the other, the player who puts down the last card gains the right to narrate the problem’s resolution informed by the strong or weak guidelines on the card. If the players fail to push the obstacle out of balance with Strength or Weakness cards, privileges revert back to the narrator, who can resolve the issue in question however they like. Play continues at a pace set by the narrator, who can also end the scene when he or she sees fit. The game’s standard setting is one complete scene every 2-3 days. Players who don’t post by the deadline get an e-mail nudge from the system, encouraging them to get back into the action.

From there, the narrator and players can play as long or as short a story as they like. Tell a tale that can be read in under an hour, or build your sprawling epic over months, or even years of play.

The Benefits

If you’re accustomed to game mastering tabletop RPGs, you’ll be very comfortable with Storium’s narrator role. The card-based asset building helps you keep all of your places, characters, and obstacles organized. Designing your own cards gives you the power to offer the other players narrative control over how problems resolve, without worrying that their decisions will defy the logic of your characters and world.

If you prefer the player role, there are absolutely mechanics to game for maximum effect in Storium. You’re dealt an equal number of Strength and Weakness cards that you have to use, so if you want strong outcomes against more than 50% of the obstacles you face, you need to spend your Goal and Subplot cards quickly. These cards represent personal missions or side objectives that reward undefined Strength cards once you resolve them. Want to reveal a hidden side of your character or win with an unexpected trick? Fill in one of those undefined strength cards and play it on the situation immediately. It’s a mechanic that encourages you to pursue personal investments in the story to get more control over the outcome.

Another great benefit for players is that the card based narrative control mechanic narrows the scope of what each player needs to write about. One of the most frustrating parts of creative writing is staring at a blank page. You could write about anything! How do you choose what your character will say or do next with so many options? The restrictions Storium’s cards offer can help focus players on the exact elements they need to include in their post. If you just played a “Bravery” Strength card and a “Shotgun” Asset card to solve your “Zombie Horde” problem, it’s pretty clear what you’re going to have to explain to close out the issue.

Regardless of what role you come to play, Storium’s asynchronous play and bite-sized commitments are a big plus for busy creators. It only takes a few minutes to catch up on the latest posts in your current story, and craft a few hundred words for your next move. All those tiny submissions add up day after day, and eventually, you can look back on a sprawling tale made by you and your friends.

Act Quickly!

Storium is well over its Kickstarter funding goal, and stretch goals have funded art libraries, non-English localizations, and dozens of custom worlds by award winning authors. Make sure to back it if you want to be able to use the beta version through to the full release in November. Once Storium officially launches, the game’s developers plan to charge $25 per year for membership, but non-narrators will still be able to participate in up to three stories in player capacity for free, so there will be some level of participation that everyone can enjoy.

Are you a Storium backer? Let our community know what you think of it so far in the comments!

Learn how to discover more cool Kickstarter projects here 7 Ways To Discover Cool Kickstarter Projects Before Anyone Else It's easier to search for interesting projects on the site. We've come up with a list of seven ways to discover interesting and new projects on Kickstarter before anyone else does. Read More !

Image Credit: Campfire by Tristan Schmurr. Additional images provided with permission by Storium lead game designer and head writer Will Hindmarch, and are property of Sara and Will Hindmarch.

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  1. Robert W
    May 7, 2014 at 3:08 pm

    Glad to turn you on to it, Scott. I'm really excited for it myself!

  2. Scott M
    May 7, 2014 at 12:54 pm

    Threw a pledge at this one because it just looks neat. It's hard to find a place to RP online that is pretty and functional, so I hope this one can fill the void.

  3. Machara
    May 6, 2014 at 5:46 pm

    They've got an interesting item in their Terms of Service: "You grant Storium a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, perpetual, worldwide license to use, copy, publicly perform or display, distribute, modify, and translate any content you post on Storium."

    • Robert W
      May 6, 2014 at 7:14 pm

      For what it's worth, the following comes from their Kickstarter FAQ:

      "Who owns the things I create on Storium?
      You own what you create on Storium.

      In the future, when we launch the public version of Storium (which this Kickstarter is funding), if you create and share your own "world" you'll have a say in how people can use it. But in no case will Storium claim any ownership. All we need is the right to host and display your stories, because otherwise... well, there would be no Storium! :)

      Our goal is to provide a tool that helps you be creative, and then get out of your way."

      I suspect, as with many services' terms and conditions, it's mostly to cover all of their legal bases. Your level of comfort with their terms though is certainly something to take into account as you decide whether or not to back the game.

  4. Risen D
    May 6, 2014 at 12:44 pm

    ppl have been doing this for years on g+, fb, chatango even, hell entire websites have been dedicated to it. * for example* what've they got to make them stand out?

    • Robert W
      May 6, 2014 at 7:09 pm

      One of the differences with Storium is the card based system. That's what makes it more than just standard play-by-post. It's hard to tell by looking at the images, but the system is implemented well. It lets you hover over obstacles and see how far along they are toward being resolved, and how far along they were at any given interaction. It provides a built-in game framework that will be consistent across all stories, so whether you're just playing something private with friends, or you've joined a public game, you can count on understanding how things work.

      As mentioned above, the cards also do a great job of focusing and encouraging players who might be otherwise intimidated by a totally free form environment of play-by-post.

      Could you implement the card system manually on your favorite play-by-post or private roleplay? Absolutely. But Storium has constructed a site that delivers it with a professional presentation, and a creative writing oriented angle that's finding broader appeal.